WHEN Christopher Alder choked to death on the floor of a police station, his sister spent years battling to uncover the truth about how he died.

Now Janet Alder has said she fully supports the family of Sheku Bayoh, a father-of-two from Fife who died in police custody in May, in their fight for answers.

In 1998, Christopher Alder, a 37-year-old former paratrooper was left lying handcuffed face down on the floor of a police station in Hull gasping for breath as officers chatted and joked around him. He stopped breathing after 11 minutes.

His death was one of the most controversial in police custody, but it was only after his family took the case to the European Court of Human Rights they finally received a formal apology from the government.

To add to the horror of the case, they discovered eleven years after holding a funeral for him that they had buried the wrong person following a mortuary mix-up.

Alder, 53, from Leeds, will recount her long battle next Saturday (25 July) at the formal launch of a campaign for justice for Bayoh.

Bayoh's death is being investigated by Scotland's police watchdog, the Police Investigations and Review Commissioner (PIRC). His family have said they believe excessive force was used and protocols were not followed.

Speaking to the Sunday Herald Alder said: “I can fully relate to how the family are feeling – everything they are going through at this moment in time I can relate to.

“I am quite prepared to talk in support of Sheku Bayoh’s family – to let them know they are not the only ones going through it and we fully support them in their fight.

“There are such a disproportionate amount of black men dying in these circumstances.”

Alder said it was important that any such deaths were properly investigated to protect the public as well as provide answers to the family.

“This is so important to us all as ordinary people” she said. “It could happen to anybody in any place at any time.

“I never thought – and I’m sure many of the other families never thought – that this type of thing could happen to them.”

Alder said her brother’s death happened after he was taken to hospital following an incident outside a nightclub, in which he was assaulted. He was subsequently arrested for breach of the peace and taken to the police station.

Two years later she saw CCTV footage of his last moments, after it was decided that an inquest would be held into his death.

“After seeing the video I was just totally in shock – it was so inhuman,” she said. “Christopher was dying just yards from their feet and there was a police officer laughing. It was absolutely shocking.”

A coroner’s jury decided Alder had been unlawfully killed. Misconduct and manslaughter charges were later brought against five Humberside Police officers, but they were acquitted of all criminal charges in 2002.

However in 2006, a report by the Independent Police Complaints Commission found four officers were guilty of “the most serious neglect of duty”.

In 2011, the government agreed to pay more than £22,000 to his family after Janet Alder took the case to the European Court of Human Right, arguing her brother’s death had never been properly investigated and he had suffered inhuman and degrading treatment.

But she said today she is still battling to get answers to other issues – such as claims her brother’s body was used for police training purposes while being held in the mortuary and allegations she was placed under surveillance by officers.

“Everything is still very much in the air 17 years later,” she said.

Other speakers at the Justice for Sheku Bayoh campaign launch and conference on deaths in custody, being held in Glasgow next week, will include members of Bayoh’s family and their lawyer Aamer Anwar.

Deborah Coles, co-director of charity Inquest, which supports the families of those who have died in custody and detention, will also be attending the conference. She said: “Families always tell us what they want is no other family to go through a similar experience.

“Our frustration is that time and again deaths that occur raise the same systemic or individual failings - despite the plethora of recommendations that have come out following out previous deaths.

“What has characterised these deaths historically is that families have had to fight every inch of the way to try and get some kind of accountability and some kind of justice for what has happened.”

Police Scotland has said it is committed to cooperating fully with the PIRC’s investigation.